Children’s Hospital Offers Nurses Summers Off
By Amy Blitchok
Having a full three months off during the summer is the stuff of legends, but it may be the new norm with nurses if a pilot program yields positive results. Starting next summer, Mercy Children’s Hospital in St. Louis Missouri, will allow nurses in their pediatric unit to take the summer off. They hope that the time off will decrease turnover rates, combat burnout, and help better balance staffing during the slower summer months.
According to the plan, nurses would work three shifts per week from September through May. During the summer they would receive full-time benefits along a bi-monthly stipend to cover the cost of insurance. They could also use any accrued time off to cover living costs and they would still be able to pick up shifts at the hospital.
The pediatric unit is the perfect test location for the program since kids don’t get sick as often during the summer months, which creates less of a demand for nurses. Illnesses pick up and spike during the fall and winter, but the need for medical staff simply isn’t as high during the summer, making it the perfect time to reduce staffing and allow nurses to get some needed rest and relaxation.
Hospital officials are hoping that this program helps to fight high rates of turnover that are contributing to the nursing shortage. In recent years, 1 in 5 nurses have left during their first year in the profession and 1 in 3 leaves during the second year. Those are staggering rates, especially considering the amount of education required to become a nurse in the first place.
A big part of the problem is that nursing is a demanding field that can make it difficult to achieve a healthy work/life balance. Nurses are faced with a relentless and high-stress environment, which can cause them to quickly become burned-out and end up making the difficult decision to leave work so that they can focus more on their families and their own health.
Being able to achieve a work/life balance is a top priority among millennials and Generation Z nurses, who are poised to fill the nurse drain that is occurring as Baby Boomer nurses reach retirement age. Offering summers off allows hospitals to offer a schedule that directly addresses the needs and concerns of new and future nurses. Vacation time could mean a rested and rejuvenated staff that returns to work with renewed excitement about their profession.
High hopes for nurse retention
Pediatric nurses at Mercy Children’s hospital will be signing up for the program this September and enjoying their first summer off next year. Hospital management expects there will be a high demand for spots in the program. If the program yields positive results and better work satisfaction, the hospital will begin looking for ways to incorporate similar programs in other units.
Hospitals across the country are also waiting to see if the program is a success and nurses enjoy the new schedule. If things go well, nursing may be one of just a handful of professions that allows employees to enjoy an extended vacation. While it might seem unconventional, summers off may be a vital part of increasing work satisfaction and the longevity of nursing careers. Hopefully, this will be good news for both patients and the future of nursing.
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